The Social Impacts of Gambling


Gambling is a complex and controversial activity. Whether it is buying lottery tickets, playing online poker, or putting together your fantasy sports team, most people lose more money than they win. But it’s not just about the wins and losses; gambling also has social impacts that can have lasting effects.

These impacts can occur at the individual, interpersonal, and community/society levels (Fig. 1). Individual and personal impacts affect the gamblers themselves; these include effects such as increased debt, financial strain, family conflict, and mental health issues. Interpersonal and community/society level impacts can impact those who are not gamblers, such as coworkers, family members, and friends. These impacts can include financial, labor, and health and well-being costs and benefits.

Traditionally, studies have focused on the economic impacts of gambling, such as treatment costs and loss of income. This approach is limited, however, as it neglects the positive aspects of gambling. Moreover, it ignores the fact that some of the most serious negative impacts come from the invisible costs of gambling, which are not easily quantified in monetary terms.

Many people use gambling as a way to relieve unpleasant feelings or to unwind. They may gamble when they feel lonely, after a stressful day at work, or following an argument with their spouse. But there are healthier ways to deal with these feelings, such as exercising, spending time with nongambling friends, or taking up a new hobby.

A number of studies have analyzed the social impacts of gambling, but there is still much more to be done. For example, few studies have attempted to quantify the consumer surplus associated with gambling, which is a measure of the difference between what consumers would be willing to pay for gambling and what they actually pay. Another important methodological challenge is how to place a monetary value on impacts that are not monetary in nature.

In addition, research on social impacts is often fragmented and isolated from each other, resulting in a lack of a comprehensive picture of the effects of gambling. There is a need to develop an integrated framework that will allow researchers to locate and analyze different parts of the literature on gambling impacts.

As a result, more attention needs to be given to the social impacts of gambling, such as emotional stress, relationship conflicts, and other nonmonetary costs and benefits. Efforts to identify these impacts should be a major focus of future research on the consequences of gambling. Ultimately, a comprehensive understanding of the social costs and benefits of gambling will help policy makers make more informed decisions about this widespread activity.